Two Types of Travel Books

The Blue City of Samarkand in Uzbekistan

Constantinople, Trebizond, Tbilisi, Baku, Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Lhasa—these are cities I would dearly love to know more about. So when I read Kate Harris’s Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, I looked forward to learning more about these magical places. Alas, I was disappointed: The book was more about a bicycle trip with little attention paid to destinations, and most of the attention paid to the roads connecting the destinations.

I had to remind myself that there are two types of travel books. First, there was my preferred kind, which combines personal experiences with history, literature, art, cuisine, and culture—the whole ball of wax! But there is another kind of travel book as well. Call it adventure travel or experiential travel. All mountain-climbing books fall into this category. They can be excellent reads, such as Jon Kracauer’s Into Thin Air, Alfred Alvarez’s Feeding the Rat, or any of Eric Shipton’s great books on mountains he has climbed.

Tibetan Monastery

Kate Harris and her companion Melissa Yule concentrated all their efforts in surviving a multiple-thousand-mile journey involving multiple mountain ranges and passes. It was quite an accomplishment, but it just left me hungry to learn more about Constantinople, Trebizond, Tbilisi, Baku, Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Lhasa, and points between.

Oh, well, as long as the quarantine and my health last, I’ll have the time to make up that deficit.

Marching Through Georgia

The Route of Sherman’s March to the Sea

The Route of Sherman’s March to the Sea

Much has been written about William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea in terms of its savagery—but almost nothing in terms of its ingenuity. After Atlanta was destroyed by Sherman’s forces, Confederate General John Bell Hood decided to attack toward Tennessee, destroying Sherman’s supplies.

But what Sherman had decided instead was to avoid Hood’s army altogether and march to Savannah, where he could be resupplied with Union ships waiting near the harbor. So he divided his army into two columns and, while marching, supplied his army with provender hijacked from plantations in the rich farm land along the route. In fact, Sherman arrived in Savannah with more cattle than he started from in Atlanta. And his men were well fed with turkeys, hogs, sweet potatoes, molasses, and corn that they were able to commandeer enroute.

William Tecumseh Sherman - 1893 Stamp Issue

William Tecumseh Sherman – 1893 Stamp Issue

It had been always been the Union Army’s strategy to fight and defeat the enemy’s army. Even Ulysses S. Grant, besieging Petersburg on the outskirts of Richmond, had doubts about the plan, but finally decided to give his approval. Sherman wasted no time in disappearing from the scene, fighting no battles until he re-emerged at Savannah.

The Confederates were thoroughly confused. Hood was marching his army into Tennessee, where it ran into George Thomas’s forces at Franklin and Nashville. Other Confederates thought that Sherman’s goal was Macon or Augusta, which they dutifully reinforced, only to be avoided by Sherman’s columns as they attacked no city larger than Milledgeville, which was until 1868, the State Capitol.

I am currently reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative, Red River to Appomatox, which provides a Southern view of the end of the Civil War. Even Foote does not accept that Sherman’s soldiers were particularly brutal, though there was a considerable amount of agricultural theft, freeing of slaves, and destruction of property. It seems to have been under control, however, and Foote makes no claims of murder or rapine.